Ad Campaign Launched to Protect Kids from Lead

April 20, 2010
Government

With two days to go before new lead paint rules for remodeling go into effect, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is joining with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning and the Ad Council today to launch a national public service advertising campaign "to educate parents about the dangers of lead poisoning." The campaign includes recommendations for hiring lead-certified contractors for work done on pre-1978 homes, but does not focus solely on information related to the new lead paint law. 

One of the ads issued today as part of a national public service campaign.

"Dust from paint containing lead is especially toxic to young children," says Steve Owens, EPA assistant administrator for prevention, pesticides and toxic substances in the same release. "Parents can protect their children from exposure to toxic lead paint dust by hiring a lead-safe trained contractor if they live in an older home and plan to renovate or repair."

"Lead poisoning is a costly, tragic and irreversible environmental disease that robs children of their ability to reach their full potential—yet it is entirely preventable," adds Ruth Ann Norton, executive director of the Baltimore-based Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning. "That is why we teamed with our partners at the EPA, HUD and the Ad Council to launch this national lead poisoning prevention and awareness campaign. Together, we can make lead history."

Industry response
With the public service campaign underway, industry organizations are still awaiting any news about a possible delay in the April 22 effective date of the lead paint  law and a final decision on the "opt-out" provision.  The Window & Door Manufacturers Association "fully supports the original intent of EPA’s new lead rule: protecting pregnant women and children age six and under," states Michael O'Brien, WDMA president. "Unfortunately, due to EPA’s poor preparation, the agency does not appear to be concerned about the inadequate number of certified contractors and trainers as well as the lack of accurate test kits that will cause consumers to pay for work practices that are not needed."

“The Window & Door Dealers Alliance shares the same goals as the EPA and others involved in this public service campaign, protecting young children from lead poisoning,” states David Walker, vice president, WDDA. “The danger of lead to young children and pregnant women is indisputable, and members of the Window & Door Dealers Alliance encourage all dealers and customers to take appropriate precautions according to EPA regulations. We do question the timing of the campaign, however. Just as efforts to educate contractors came late, this campaign to educate the public should have been started long ago.“

"Adding to these problems is EPA's proposal to remove the opt-out provision from the rule, which WDMA adamantly opposes," states O'Brien. "The opt-out provision currently allows homeowners living in homes built prior to 1978 to voluntarily decline the use of special work practices if children six and under or pregnant women do not reside in the home. At last month's meeting with the Office of Management and Budget and EPA officials, WDMA strongly expressed its opposition to removing the opt-out provision, asserting EPA has provided no adequate data, nor has it demonstrated any benefits or other rationale for expanding the scope of the rule which will add nearly 40 million homes to the current number of 38 million that are covered by the law.”

The new campaign, Walker points out, focuses on educating parents and caregivers of young children, those most at risk from lead poisoning. “Given the high costs of lead-safe procedures, we think the new lead paint rule for remodeling work should maintain a similar focus—on homes with children under six or pregnant women,” he notes. “While we won’t know what they’re thinking until April 22, WDDA hopes this new campaign is a sign that the opt-out provisions of the original rule will be kept.”

The press release highlighting the new public service ad campaign specifically addresses windows and doors.  "The most common pathway for lead poisoning is caused by deteriorating lead-based paint (on older windows, doors and trim, or walls) or through improper renovation, repair and painting activities that cause paint to chip, peel, or flake," it states. "Children are frequently poisoned by ingesting lead dust that has accumulated on their hands, fingers, toys, or clothing from lead hazard sources like floors and window sills."

Asked about the fact that windows and doors are singled out in the announcement, Walker says, “it could be a response to WDDA’s success in reaching out to the White House, Congress and other policy makers to look at the other side of this issue. We’re still hopeful.”

The campaign to educate the public may be new, but the industry has worked to address concerns related to lead for some time, points out Rich Walker, president and CEO of the American Architectural Manufacturers. "Responsible window installers, such as those trained as part of AAMA’s InstallationMasters program–based upon the industry-accepted installation guideline ASTM E 2112– are ever conscious of the dangers of lead dust and flakes that could result from replacing windows. One of the first steps, as recommended in the program’s training manual, is to inspect the work area for any hazardous materials, such as lead," he states.

AAMA's Walker goes on to explain that InstallationMasters stresses rigorous and thorough clean up to prevent exposure, including a number of specific steps that can help prevent lead-based paint being turned into leaded dust.

In announcing the new PSAs today, the Ad Council also released results of a national online survey that found only a third of parents in the United States are very concerned that lead poses a health risk to their children.  When parents were asked what they were concerned about, less than 10 percent mentioned that lead poses a risk to their children's health. The majority of respondents rated cleaners and solvents, electrical outlets and prescription medicines as the home hazards they are most concerned about, while lead poisoning ranked second to last.  The survey also found that among those respondents who used contractors to do renovations, only 38 percent were confident that they used a lead-safe contractor.

The new www.leadfreekids.org Web site provides a variety of information on making a home lead safe.

The PSAs designed to educate parents on the threats of lead direct parents to visit a new Web site, www.leadfreekids.org, to learn more about where lead can be found in their home, how to protect their children from exposure to lead and to know what to do if they or a member of their family is exposed to lead. The site, which is also available in Spanish at www.leadfreekids.org/espanol, encourages parents and other adults to download free toolkits in an effort to help eliminate childhood lead poisoning. 

It also includes information on getting a home tested for lead and choosing a lead certified contractor for work on pre-1978 homes.  PSAs are being distributed to more than 33,000 media outlets nationwide this week.